Sears' Mail-Order Tractor

The 1930s Economy tractor

| August 2009

  • A vintage ad for the New Economy tractor from Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the late 1930s.
    A vintage ad for the New Economy tractor from Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the late 1930s.
  • A 1939 Economy tractor on skeleton steel wheels. Note that the steering mechanism has been changed on this model.
    A 1939 Economy tractor on skeleton steel wheels. Note that the steering mechanism has been changed on this model.
    James N. Boblenz
  • A better view of the open gear steering on a 1938 Economy.
    A better view of the open gear steering on a 1938 Economy.
    James N. Boblenz
  • Both rear brake levers are visible, along with the PTO (this tractor does not have the drawbar in place).
    Both rear brake levers are visible, along with the PTO (this tractor does not have the drawbar in place).
    James N. Boblenz
  • A 1939 Economy tractor with starter and lights, mounted on Sears rubber tires.
    A 1939 Economy tractor with starter and lights, mounted on Sears rubber tires.
    James N. Boblenz
  • A 1938 Sears Economy on standard steel wheels. This early tractor was patterned on the Farmall F-12.
    A 1938 Sears Economy on standard steel wheels. This early tractor was patterned on the Farmall F-12. However, an open steering gear allowed debris to accumulate in the grease and cause hard steering.
    James N. Boblenz
  • A 1931 Sears Economy tractor.
    A 1931 Sears Economy tractor.
    James N. Boblenz
  • The Economy’s Ford Model A engine with belt-driven governor attached.
    The Economy’s Ford Model A engine with belt-driven governor attached.
    James N. Boblenz

  • A vintage ad for the New Economy tractor from Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the late 1930s.
  • A 1939 Economy tractor on skeleton steel wheels. Note that the steering mechanism has been changed on this model.
  • A better view of the open gear steering on a 1938 Economy.
  • Both rear brake levers are visible, along with the PTO (this tractor does not have the drawbar in place).
  • A 1939 Economy tractor with starter and lights, mounted on Sears rubber tires.
  • A 1938 Sears Economy on standard steel wheels. This early tractor was patterned on the Farmall F-12.
  • A 1931 Sears Economy tractor.
  • The Economy’s Ford Model A engine with belt-driven governor attached.

When you think of economy, you think of something reasonably reliable and relatively inexpensive.

In 1962, when my wife and I were raising our family, we wanted a small, economical car. At the time, we thought a Volkswagen would be the ideal purchase. However, when we visited the local dealer, we found the car to be rather expensive. We tried negotiating the price. “If you want economy,” the dealer told us, “you have to pay for it.” We thought that was a rather unusual comment, so we bought a Mercury Meteor instead. It cost less than the Volkswagen and was much roomier.

But that’s beside the point, which is the Economy tractor. Early on, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was a major player in agriculture. The company’s goal was to provide farmers with reliable, low-cost, efficient machinery, whether horse-drawn or mechanized.

In 1931, Sears developed and marketed an Economy tractor. The tractor was produced for about a year. Then, in 1937, Sears contracted with the Peru Wheel Co., Peru, Ill., to build a tractor both reliable and affordable. Peru proposed a plan using rebuilt Ford Model A engines. The frame and most of the castings were to be produced at the Peru plant.

Plans called for a 2-plow tractor (two 14-inch plows) with a self-starter, a revolutionary concept in 1938. Other features included an air cleaner, automatic spark control, a special carburetor, governor and oil filter. The tractor used an automotive-type 3-speed transmission and an automotive rear axle with mechanical brakes at each rear wheel.

Its universal swinging drawbar allowed for easier hookup to implements and smoother operation of towed implements. Options included a belt pulley and PTO, fenders, wheel weights and extensions, headlights, and rubber tires. A 2-row cultivator was also adapted for the Economy.



Dave Elmore, Newark, Ill., is a Sears Economy enthusiast. He claims a soft spot for Model A Fords and also is interested in Thrifty Farm Model A Ford conversions. He and his son Chad have worked on Sears Economy tractors for more than 20 years. They have owned and restored about 15 in that time and still own six. Three are 1938 models and three date to 1939.

According to Dave, the Economy’s transmission was a standard Model A 3-speed with only a slight change in the shifting lever to make it easier for the driver to shift gears. The transmission is connected through a short drive shaft to a speed reduction unit mounted directly to a narrowed Timken truck rear axle (some people, he says, believe it to be an Eaton axle rear end). That arrangement reduces ground speed in third gear to 3.5 mph.

jan mc dowell
7/10/2010 10:23:06 PM

I purchased a sears mail order economy tractor in March of this year, and I am having a blast with it. I do not farm, just enjoy old stuff. I have a 1922 model T Depot Hack,1924 Drs.Coupe, 1927 Model T Rdstr, 1929 Rdstr pick up, 1931 Model A 4dr Twn Sedan and a 1931 Model A Cabriolet. I am a retired 62 year old divorced guy and just having a great time. I would like to hear from other people that have one of these tractors and your experience with it. I recently hauled mine to a tractor show here in Muskegon and was amazed at the response it received. There was a few Seniors that new what it was right off the bat. I put an explosion whistle on it and the kids got a big kick out of that. Just ride around the neighborhood at 3 1/2 MPH avoiding speeding tickets and having fun.




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